Louisa Lim

Beijing Correspondent Louisa Lim is currently attending the University of Michigan as a Knight-Wallace Fellow. She will return to her regular role in 2014.

Based in Beijing, NPR foreign correspondent Louisa Lim finds China a hugely diverse, vibrant, fascinating place. "Everywhere you look and everyone you talk to has a fascinating story," she notes, adding that she's "spoiled with choices" of stories to cover. In her reports, Lim takes "NPR listeners to places they never knew existed. I want to give them an idea of how China is changing and what that might mean for them."

Lim opened NPR's Shanghai bureau in February 2006, but she's reported for NPR from up Tibetan glaciers and down the shaft of a Shaanxi coalmine. She made a very rare reporting trip to North Korea, covered illegal abortions in Guangxi province, and worked on the major multimedia series on religion in China "New Believers: A Religious Revolution in China." Lim has been part of NPR teams who multiple awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, a Peabody and two Edward R. Murrow awards, for their coverage of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and the Beijing Olympics. She's been honored in the Human Rights Press Awards, as well as winning prizes for her multimedia work.

In 1995, Lim moved to Hong Kong and worked at the Eastern Express newspaper until its demise six months later and then for TVB Pearl, the local television station. Eventually Lim joined the BBC, working first for five years at the World Service in London, and then as a correspondent at the BBC in Beijing for almost three years.

Lim found her path into journalism after graduating with a degree in Modern Chinese studies from Leeds University in England. She worked as an editor, polisher, and translator at a state-run publishing company in China, a job that helped her strengthen her Chinese. Simultaneously, she began writing for a magazine and soon realized her talents fit perfectly with journalism.

NPR London correspondent Rob Gifford, who previously spent six years reporting from China for NPR, thinks that Lim is uniquely suited for his former post. "Not only does Louisa have a sharp journalistic brain," Gifford says, "but she sees stories from more than one angle, and can often open up a whole new understanding of an issue through her reporting. By listening to Louisa's reports, NPR listeners will certainly get a feel for what 21st century China is like. It is no longer a country of black and white, and the complexity is important, a complexity that you always feel in Louisa's intelligent, nuanced reporting."

Out of all of her reporting, Lim says she most enjoys covering stories that are quirky or slightly offbeat. However, she gravitates towards reporting on arts stories with a deeper significance. For example, early in her tenure at NPR, Lim highlighted a musical on stage in Seoul, South Korea, based on a North Korean prison camp. The play, and Lim's piece, highlighted the ignorance of many South Koreans of the suffering of their northern neighbors.

Married with a son and a daughter, Lim recommends any NPR listeners travelling to Shanghai stop by a branch of her husband's Yunnan restaurant, Southern Barbarian, where they can snack on deep fried bumblebees, a specialty from that part of southwest China. In Beijing, her husband owns and runs what she calls "the first and best fish and chip shop in China", Fish Nation.

A leather belt from Hermes priced at almost $1,000 — nearly a year's salary for the average Chinese farmer. A bright pink, $2,000 trouser suit from Emilio Pucci. A red snakeskin Celine handbag that costs $4,500.

These weren't items at a fashion show, but luxury goods spotted on delegates hurrying to China's annual legislative assembly sessions.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now just as the U.S. economy seems to be picking up, China's is not. The Chinese government has downgraded its economic growth target to the slowest rate in eight years. China's premier says the country needs to boost consumer demand, and address what he calls unsustainable development.

NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

In southern China, a village that rebelled against corrupt Communist officials has elected the main protest leaders as its new village committee leaders. Reformers are hoping this could be a template for defusing unrest through grassroots democracy, but others say the experience of the rebellious village is unique.

Later this month, an election will be held to select Hong Kong's next chief executive. The race has been tarnished with accusations of extra-marital affairs and conflicts of interest. As the local press puts it: Beijing has lost control of the puppet strings.

Wednesday marks the traditional Tibetan New Year, but many Tibetans won't be celebrating. They'll be mourning the almost two-dozen people who set themselves on fire in the past year as a protest against Chinese rule. Eyewitnesses say the town of Aba, site of many of the self-immolations, resembles a Chinese military camp, with soldiers and riot police every few feet. NPR's Louisa Lim traveled elsewhere on the Tibetan plateau to cover the story and sent this dispatch.

In a monastery on the Tibetan plateau, monks swathed in crimson robes chant under silk hangings, in a murky hall heavy with the smell of yak butter. Photos of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama — seen by China as a splittist — are openly displayed, as if in defiance. But Chinese security forces have tightened their grasp on this region, and monasteries appear to be emptying out, gripped by an atmosphere of fear and loss.

Third of three parts

The man who's expected to become China's president next year, Xi Jinping, is considered a princeling, the son of a prominent Chinese political figure. But the man who's likely to become premier, Li Keqiang, comes from very different stock.

The son of a minor party official, Li worked as a farmer for four years, before studying law at university.

Second of three parts

In northwestern China's Shaanxi province, a neatly manicured and landscaped memorial park the size of six soccer fields is one sign of the revolutionary lineage of Xi Jinping, the man set to become China's next leader.

Known as a Communist Party princeling, Xi is the 58-year-old son of Xi Zhongxun, a deputy prime minister and revolutionary hero who died in 2002.

The elder Xi was born in Fuping county in Shaanxi, more than 600 miles southwest of Beijing, and is considered a hometown hero.

First of three parts

China's leader-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, is due to arrive in the U.S. shortly, providing the first glimpse of the next generation to lead the world's second-largest economy. This once-in-a-decade transition of power, which begins this fall, is rife with unpredictability, particularly as an unfolding political scandal grips China.

Down a quiet Beijing alleyway on a recent day, as the winter wind whistles, two men stand guard over a pile of bricks hidden behind a corrugated iron fence.

The pile of rubble was once the home of the man known as the father of modern Chinese architecture, Liang Sicheng. The Orwellian reason for its demolition? "For maintenance," according to a Xinhua news agency report, citing the developer, Fuheng Real Estate company.

For 10-year-old student Xie Xiaoyuan, just getting to school is an ordeal. On a recent day, her frostbitten ears are testament to just how difficult the trip is.

"I get up at five o'clock," she says, "then I comb my hair and start walking."

Xie navigates a mountain path in China's remote Shaanxi province in the dark, trudging through snowstorms and mudslides. Then she has to get a bus for about 10 miles. She hasn't time to eat breakfast.

"For lunch, I spend 15 cents on two pieces of bread and a drink," she says.

Tens of millions of people tune in every week to the Chinese dating show Take Me Out. It's pure entertainment: girls in skimpy dresses hoping for a date; sweaty, geeky guys stammering questions; and two effete hosts sporting matching bouffant hairstyles.

But as of last week, the show was bumped from prime time — part of China's latest clampdown against "excessive entertainment," which is itself a manifestation of a larger ideological campaign.

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